Friday, March 22, 2013

Memories of Pulling Weeds

Tuesday night I finally connected with a widow that I had reached out to last September.  We talked briefly but the conversation was difficult.  We really didn’t click which made me sad.  Maybe it’s because she’s about two years out while I’m pushing the 4-year mark.  After we got off the phone and using my personal blog, I traveled back in time to remind myself where I was when I was two years out.  It’s amazing how crystal clear the memories of the feelings are of my life back then - a moment that seems not that long ago.

From March 2011…..


You’d think after almost two years I’d be used to the silence in this big house on Sunday mornings.  I’m surprised at how thick it still is.  Sundays were fun days for me and she.  Inevitably, she’d spring out of bed with a little dance, a smile and a plan:  work in the garden, go for a walk with the pups, brunch, paint, something.  She was always moving, it seemed, moving and smiling.  Now Sundays, once my favorite day of the week, are my most lonely.

Today will be a continuation of a process that started a long time ago.  But today is different; I’m bringing in help.  Mom Mary and Sister Lori are coming over and we, together, are going to sort through some more of Maggie’s stuff.  There’s still so much to go through.  I’m not sure how much we will get done but any progress is movement forward and movement is good.  Still, I both fear and look forward to the work.

I suppose until Mary and Lori get here I could go work in the garden.  It could certainly use some love.  It’s been several years since we tended it together and working alone seems so….  Pointless. But watching the plants and flower grow do make me smile still, just not as sweetly.  I always felt as we worked the dirt together we were building a foundation for happy times to come as a couple.  Now, I’m not sure why it’s worth the effort.  Sure, it looks nice.  I enjoy the flowers.  But it just doesn’t seem as meaningful.

Over the last number of years I’ve let the yard and garden really go.  It used to be a breathtaking work of nature (and our hands.)  We loved working in it, on it and watching it grow.  It was a labor of together love.  But as she got sicker, priorities had to be rearranged and the gardening fell out, that is, unless she wanted to go play in it.  Then, later, I pretty much lost interest.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I still love the garden.  I just didn’t care about anything anymore.  It’s funny how this garden has reflected the health, both mental and physical, of the people in this house.


Even though moments have passed since you started reading this post, hours have passed since I started typing it.  And in the hours, I did go out and work in the yard.  I didn’t do much; I evicted some quite large weeds that had taken up residence and had been bothering me for quite some time.  It was cathartic.  I was surprised, actually, at how hard it was to pull some of them from the hard dirt.  They really, REALLY didn’t want to go.

When Mary and Lori got here we started our work for the day: underneath Maggie’s bathroom sink.  It’s not particularly complicated work but nonetheless it’s kept me perplexed now for, well, nearly two years.  Various bottles of hair stuff and face stuff and nail stuff that took up residence when we moved in or soon after had all but spoiled.  Many garbage pails of stuff had to be thrown out.  It surprised me at how hard it was to pull some of them from underneath the sink.  (I think it surprised Mary and Lori, too.)  But it was time for all that stuff to go… Some to Mary…. Some to Lori… Some to unknown recipients… Some to the garbage.

After we finished the monumental task of clearing out one (exactly one) counter, we were emotionally drained.  We packed up the dogs and headed to Red Barn Nursery to peruse the fresh spring plants.  It was quite a contrast to just moments before when we were separating out hair gel from hand lotion while unearthing under-the-sink emotional land mines.  Here, while we looked at caladiums and oxalis, my mind raced through years of memories of Maggie and me (and Niko) spending hours (and many, many dollars) at Red Barn, picking plants for our garden.  Now, I was there with Maggie’s mom and sister (and Niko and Kali) while they picked out plants for their gardens after spending a couple of hours throwing away my wonderful wife’s, their wonderful sister’s and daughter’s things.

I wish I could avoid the metaphor here.  I was certainly relieved when I finally pulled out those pesky few weeds that had been bothering me for so long.  I can’t really say I can feel relief about clearing out one more stack of stuff of Maggie’s.  Right now, when I look at the places her stuff used to be, I see great big holes, just like where the weeds used to be in my yard; there are big divots in the ground that are all dirt and no grass.  These empty holes dot the yard, just like the empty spots on Maggie’s side of the bathroom sure do stick out.

But I know grass will grow back in the yard and fill in those holes.  The grass around it may be a little shocked from the winter, but it’s good strong grass planted in good strong dirt.  It’ll take time but eventually, I won’t even be able to tell where those weeds used to be.  Heck, I might not even remember that they were there.  Ya know, before we started clearing out the cabinet, I took pictures.  Maybe I should have taken pictures of those weeds, too.


  1. Wow Chris, this really is where I am right now. I am just past the two year mark. My husband and I were big gardeners. In fact we bought the house I live in so we had more room to garden. When he was alive, every spring and summer day was a joy as we walked the yard and talked about the gardens, the flowers and what we would do next. It has NEVER looked the same. I take care of it. But exactly as you said, I have lost the joy of doing it. It just seems like a lot of work. People say "move" but then I would leave behind everything.
    When the bulbs he planted come up in the Spring I feel like a part of our love, our memories are still alive. When I look in the yard and see the bench he sat on every day, i feel so sad, but I remember him sitting there. I can still picture it.
    I still have a drawer of his things, his favourite leather coat, his garden work shoes.
    This spring - I have plans for the garden. I am going to try to bring back the life and the love we had for our home. I am going to try and invite friends over for barbecues.
    I am going to fill the holes in the yard and hopefully in my heart too.
    Thanks for letting me know that I am exactly where I should be - on the road.

  2. Funny how those personal toiletries are so hard to sort through. Like you, I do things bit by bit, shelf by shelf, not able to do it all in one swoop. Makes it not so barren all of the sudden.

    The garden...once so cared for, now so ignored. I hope this spring I am able to dig in the dirt once again, I used to find such joy in that task, now it has just been another chore to do alone. Doesn't help knowing that I am probably leaving this garden and home behind soon. Time does change where we're at in more ways than one.

  3. Death sounds easy, but the hard part is the stuff attached. Sorting things out is hard, like removing her from my life. I try not to leave holes, leave a few items and especially some I can identify with. She pretty much took care of the inside of our house and I the outside. Now I have both. Trying to match the job she did haunts me somewhat to match the same. More flowers this year and less garden. Maybe she will come down with the rain and have a lot of flowers.

  4. It will be 4 years in May for me. I dealt with my husband's bathroom and toiletries very early on, because I was getting our house ready to sell quickly. I couldn't stay in Utah for the coming winter by myself. I was angry, hysterical and throwing things. I remember the feeling very clearly. I have not been able to fill the holes that are left in my life. I am finally close to selling my Harley. There is no joy in riding anymore without him. (I guess I could never be an effective blogger - I can share the feelings, but not the hope... You guys are always able to end your posts with some hope.) I appreciate your writings, Chris...

  5. On Jan 4 2011 I was in an instant uprooted and moved to Widowland and no one even asked me if I wanted to go. Bill,My Oaktree, had never caused me a moments sadness till that day and for 33 wonderful years our life was blessed just being together. No matter what we had or what we did as long as we were together it was wonderful. We knew from the beginning God had given us something very special, and I'm thankful that neither of us ever took it for granted. I have found comfort in writing ,something very new for me and may even one day publish a book "The Adventures in Widowland" learning to laugh again... I slowly removed things of his that I knew were too nice to just sit in the closet when others could use them. The funny thing is the old work shirts or house slippers which still sit on the floor on his side of the bed is what I chose to keep. In our bathroom his sink still has his Brut and Old Spice etc...Is it right to keep those things? well I don't know but for me it is, and whatever brings me comfort I choose to do. I have found widows/ers should do what ever seems right for them and for each of us that will be something very different. I seldom ever talk to my beloved as I find,for me, that because the Lord is my constant companion I can talk to Him. Bill loved the Lord with all his heart and soul and lived his faith out as an example before me and I know where he is today. I miss his loving ways and tender moments, the kiss on the back of the neck while I'm doing dishes, the hug from my gentle giant before he would leave for work; his being 6'4" and me 4'11" made me feel very protected. I guess since I have never been on this site before I am rambling on too much. But I just want to say to the really new folks living in Widowland try not to make any major decisions for at least a year and if possible wait two years, because the first year or two is like being ,emotionally, on a wild roller-coaster and what feels right one day (wait 24 hours) cause it will feel wrong the next day. The other thing is DON'T beat your self up because you aren't acting like so & so etc...Feel YOUR feelings and don't feel guilty about it. And if you are a believer ask the Lord to show you the humor and things left to smile about in Widowland, they are there you just have to really look for them. Like the day I saw a chin whisker I had grown overnight. I'd probably had it a couple of days so others must have seen it...That's when I decided that Widowland needs a CHIN and NOSE Hair Inspector to check out all widows as they leave for shopping or work etc. See when we have a spouse they check these things out but now that we don't I think we need an onsight Inspector.Pretty soon I was laughing out loud at the mere thought of interviewing someone for the job. I know to some this might not be funny but believe me you will laugh again. Do I still have TSUNAMIS? YES absolutely! That's what I call it when I just start to cry for no reason and can’t stop almost as if Bill just died. I miss him more everyday but I tolerate it better. I trust the Lord but I have told Him many times I really don't like this plan at all. I know His ways are higher and wiser than mine will ever be, so I leave it at that. Just remember on a bad day WAIT 24 hours and I guarantee you life will get sunny again for you. Thanks for being here for me tonight and I hope what I have had to say helped someone else. May God Bless the inhabitants of Widowland,
    by Dottie, The Whimsical Widow